Posts

Poverty in PakistanPakistan, a country in South Asia, is part of the Indian subcontinent bordering India on the east side and Afghanistan on the west. Although Pakistan’s economy is growing at an exceptional rate, its population has not reaped much of the benefits of this economic growth. There are many factors to this uneven wealth distribution and high poverty rate. In order to understand the wealth gap and poverty situation, here are six facts about poverty in Pakistan.

6 Facts About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. The percentage of people under poverty in Pakistan in 2018 is 31.3%. According to the Business Recorder, the percentage of people under poverty in Pakistan is predicted to jump to 40%. By numerical standards, the poverty population will increase from 69 million to 87 million by the end of 2020. A value of 87 million is quite high in proportion to the country’s population of 212.2 million.
  2. In 2018, Pakistan suffered a macroeconomic crisis. The government had accrued a budget deficit of $18 billion by the end of 2018. As a result, this forced the government to limit its spending. The economic growth slowed significantly. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has further brought the economy to an almost standstill. This has forced the government of Pakistan to cut down on its spending. When a country’s economy shrinks, the government stops funding many welfare programs. Consequently, the people at the margins of poverty suffer, further increasing poverty in Pakistan.
  3. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the poverty-stricken citizens in Pakistan. These people consist of women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities. They are far more likely to suffer from malnutrition and their health may be weak. Thus, the virus tends to spread in poverty-stricken communities faster. The U.N. has recommended that Pakistan should increase its essential health services to people in poverty because of their weaker health status. In order to improve the economy, the U.N. also recommended that Pakistan should pass fiscal and financial stimuli. This can alleviate the debt and help many people in Pakistan financially. As a result, it may prevent the poverty rate from increasing or at least slow down the growth rate.
  4. The United Nations Development Programme has established a COVID-19 secretariat at Pakistan’s planning commission. Their mission is to help stabilize the economic crisis occurring in Pakistan. The planning commission will also provide social programs to help the citizens affected by COVID-19. However, their main focus is on providing social programs to residents living in poverty. The planning commission has succeeded in assisting Pakistan in its crisis management amid this pandemic.
  5. Many children in Pakistan take up low paying jobs in order to provide for themselves and their families. Many of these jobs are hazardous and dangerous. However, the children have no choice but to do them in order to receive any form of payment to feed themselves and their families. By 2018, Pakistan has made efforts to limit child labor and indentured servitude. Many of these laws are still ignored and dismissed by the citizens, mainly due to children who willingly work in order to alleviate their families from poverty and hunger. However, Pakistan has made moderate advancements in diminishing and banning hazardous forms of child labor for children.
  6. There is some good news in Pakistan’s fight against poverty. In 2015 Pakistan’s then prime minister Nawaz Sharif launched a healthcare scheme for the poor. The scheme has largely been a success since it has expanded. In 2019, the current prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has stated that he envisions a future for Pakistan where it can be a welfare state similar to the Scandinavian countries. So far, his administration is working on furthering this vision by raising income taxes on the wealthy and instigating more welfare programs. In addition, the government is doing its best to continue fighting poverty and provide social programs and healthcare to the poor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The government will provide financial stimulus checks to its citizens ($70, or 11,717.89 Rupees). This program is called the “Ehsass Programme.” So far this modest social welfare program has helped many Pakistani families financially. Additionally, the government is planning more programs in order to help its citizens amid the pandemic.

Pakistan’s poverty rate has decreased in recent years. However, the country’s current economic crisis, mixed with its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has put many Pakistani citizens out of jobs. This has further increased the poverty rate. The government of Pakistan is doing its best to fight both the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty in Pakistan. So far the government has provided many social welfare programs at a scale that they have never done in history until now. There is much more to do in order for the country to defeat poverty.

Sadat Tashin

Photo: Flickr

Nepal’s rural communitiesNepal’s economy is heavily reliant on farming and livestock, with 65% of the population engaging in these industries. This sector accounts for around 35% of the country’s GDP. However, many of Nepal’s rural communities that comprise the backbone of this sector still face poverty and food insecurity. Around 27% of Nepalese children under the age of five are underweight. In normal years, Nepal’s rural communities already face many challenges. According to a large sample survey of rural Nepalis, around a quarter of respondents report having to restrict meal portions during the lean season. The lean season is the period between planting and harvesting. Rural incomes dry up during this period.

COVID-19 Related Challenges in Nepal’s Rural Communities

While quarantine and lockdown have been a vital part of curbing the spread of COVID-19, it created challenges for rural Nepalis. A joint research team of the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE) and the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility in Kathmandu tracked 2,600 households in rural Nepal before and after the COVID-19 lockdown. The main problem that this study identified is as lean seasons arrive and grain stocks from the last harvest are exhausted. In addition, extended lockdowns could lead to more hunger and push families below the poverty line. Krishna Rana, a rural citizen in Nepal shares, “Forget about nutritious food, it has been hard to manage daily food for us.”

In a normal year, during the lean season, workers are able to travel into the cities for temporary work. However, this isn’t possible during the lockdown. This study found that the total hours in income-generating work for men have decreased by 75% since January. These statistics indicate that the COVID-19 lockdown will have profound economic impacts. Additionally, it could exacerbate cycles of poverty. As Rana’s husband Rajendra Rana says, “There’s no work I can do. It’s been tough to feed nine members in the family and I am the sole breadwinner.”

Relief Measures to Face Nepal’s Agricultural Challenges

The country’s local governments take on the responsibility of supporting Nepal’s rural communities through the pandemic. Local governments have been allocating resources like food to its most vulnerable citizens. However, these local governments express the need for additional support. As Dhan Bahadur Thapa, Chairman of Beldandi Rural Municipality says, “We lack proper resources, and the support from the non-government agencies have been very essential; through the help of them we are trying our best to feed our people.”

NGOs That Help Assist The Governmental Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. The International Institute for Environment and Development: The International Institute for Environment and Development is a policy and action research organization. It has been leading an initiative called “Empowering Producers in Commercial Agriculture” in Nepal. This project began in 2018. In addition, it centered around finding ways to empower rural communities both economically and socio-legally. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the research framework of this project has been instrumental in helping local governments locate the rural communities most in need.
  2. DanChurchAid (DCA): DCA provides roughly 21 million Nepalese rupees worth of support for approximately 25000 individuals. This amount supports about 4,132 families. One of the specific aims of the DCA’s COVID-19 aid programs is to target pregnant and lactating mothers. Hunger and malnutrition can result in difficulty in producing milk and sustaining a child. Thus, these mothers are especially at risk to be affected by the pandemic lockdown. So far, around 105 of these mothers receive special aid packages with nutritious meals in addition to the regular food aid.
  3. Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS): The NRCS has assisted in the response to food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of August 18, the NRCS distributes a total of 17,933 meals.

With the support of NGOs, it is the hope that Nepal’s rural communities will be able to sustain themselves through the COVID-19 pandemic. Consistent food and resource support will ensure that these communities do not face food insecurity and further poverty. It is essential that these rural communities are aided so they can continue to sustain themselves through farming and livestock rearing in the future.

Antoinette Fang
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Abuse in South AfricaThis fall, Microsoft and other NGOs will host a hackathon aiming to create solutions for women and children facing domestic abuse in South Africa. The announcement came out during Women’s Month, with the hope to spread awareness about issues surrounding women in South Africa. South Africa has always had an alarming presence of domestic violence, and the coronavirus quarantine has increased abuse reports. Microsoft’s hackathon, however, might produce an app that has the capability to save countless women and children in South Africa from violent households.

Statistics about Domestic Abuse in South Africa

South Africa has the “highest statistics of gender-based violence in the world, including rape and domestic violence.” Domestic violence incidents were scarcely reported before the last three decades because it was considered a private affair to be sorted out among households. However, available data affirms the severity of domestic abuse in South Africa. A 1998 study by the South African Medical Council revealed that 50% out of almost 1,400 men “physically abused their female partners at their homes.”

The World Health Organization found that “60,000 women and children were victims of domestic abuse in South Africa” in 2012. On average, women in South Africa who face abuse are usually unemployed and have an almost non-existent educational background. Moreover, the same study found that the women who were victims of violent relationships were usually from rural areas. The latter piece of information is important because most help-centers or other valuable resources for abuse victims in South Africa are located in urban areas. With Microsoft’s new app, the goal is to disseminate the necessary resources and information regarding abuse to those victims who live outside of South African cities.

Domestic Abuse: The Second Pandemic

As the coronavirus runs rampant across the globe, South Africa faces a second pandemic: a massive increase in domestic violence. Following the country’s lockdown procedure in March, South Africa’s national helpline for victims doubled its usual volume, putting the number of calls from afflicted women and children over 120,000. With fewer places to seek refuge during the lockdown, women and children facing domestic violence are trapped at home. The Jones Safe House is a non-profit shelter group for abuse victims in South Africa. It has been overwhelmed by the increase in abuse cases. Every day they try to make room for another victim who managed to escape from his or her violent residence.

Microsoft’s Hackathon Against Domestic Violence

Microsoft’s [email protected] hackathon will run from September 22 to October 19. The objective is to create apps that help those who are in abusive relationships or face any form of gender-based violence. The organization will account for South Africa’s gender-based digital divide, which leaves many women with less access to certain technologies. Namely, the hackathon has a list of considerations that developers need to keep in mind:

  • “Many of those facing gender-based violence are using 3rd or 4th generation phones that are obsolete
  • Users may not have access to applications like Whatsapp or other one-touch SOS tools or applications
  • Data is expensive and not always readily available – especially in emergency situations
  • Regular load shedding means that cell towers are not always operational
  • Many women in South Africa have limited or no airtime to make calls or send SMSs
  • Many women and children do not have access to transport to find a place of safety”

Also, Microsoft has outlined some possible directions app developers can take, which include assistance, empowerment and recovery. At the end of the hackathon, the top three teams of developers will win monetary prizes. Additionally, Microsoft will grant the first-place team a contract in order to collaborate for the app’s further development.

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the plight of South African abuse victims, but people have not given up hope. Those facing domestic abuse in South Africa have allies who will be working tirelessly toward virtual solutions. And by the end of the year, one might find an app online that can save thousands of lives. Microsoft’s initiative to develop an app-based solution to domestic violence is a step in the right direction, and their actions will hopefully spur other corporations to get involved.

Maxwell Karibian
Photo: Flickr

feed hungry children in AfricaDuring the early weeks of the pandemic, many Americans were buying extra items that were hard to find in grocery stores, such as toilet paper, paper towels, rice and cleaning supplies. Now that supplies are back on the shelves, using those items can help feed hungry children in Africa.

Grocery Shoppers Are Stockpiling

According to a survey conducted between March 13 and 15, 2020 among American grocery shoppers, 54% said that they had stockpiled supplies that would last them for two weeks. Almost one-fifth of the shoppers purchased items that would last between three and four weeks, while 20% stockpiled enough for one week, and 7% were supplied for over a month.

Toilet paper was not the only item being hoarded. This spring, worried consumers bought staples such as rice and pasta in record numbers. But does a family really need that second oversized bag of rice gathering dust on the pantry shelf? Statistics show that many people in the United States were over-supplying their pantries. For example, a five-pound bag of rice equals about 13 six-ounce servings, which would feed two people for almost a week if each person ate a serving of rice every single day. Similarly, five pounds of uncooked pasta is equivalent to 13 servings, which feeds two people each a serving of pasta every day for about a week. Instead of stockpiling and letting these items linger on the shelf until their expiration dates, it makes sense for people to use just five pounds each of rice and pasta per week. Doing so could save close to $20 at the grocery store.

Now that supplies such as toilet paper are back on the shelves, families can also use stockpiled paper goods regularly instead of storing them indefinitely in the closet. By not buying two 12-roll packages of toilet paper this month, and instead using the rolls already in the closet, a family could save around $25. This amount could feed a child in Africa for an entire month, according to the World Food Program.

Feed Hungry Children in Africa for an Entire Month

If a family also uses the package of paper towels sitting in the pantry instead of buying a new package, they would save around $20, which would feed a child in Africa for another three weeks. And using the extra cleaning supplies that are stashed under the sink — such as laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, hand soap and spray cleaners — could save another $25, which would feed yet another child for one month. To sum up: dusting off and using just a few stockpiled paper goods, cleaning supplies and five pounds each of rice and pasta could cut around $90 from the next grocery bill. According to the World Food Program, $15 could feed a hungry child in Africa for one month. With the savings gained simply from using these items and not buying new ones, a person or family could feed six hungry children in Africa for an entire month.

The Pandemic Increased Global Hunger

The global need for aid is greater than ever. Prior to the pandemic, around 149 million people suffered from extreme hunger, but as the coronavirus spreads, that number could reach 270 million by December 2020. According to the World Bank, the prevalence of undernourishment in Zambia’s population is over 46%. This means that almost half of all people in Zambia do not have enough to eat. In the Republic of the Congo, 40.4% of people are hungry, while the same is true for 29.4% of Kenyans and 13.4% of Nigerians.

In addition, South Sudan has declared a famine, with an estimated one million children acutely malnourished. As of March 2020, South Sudan is one of the most food-insecure countries in the world, and the pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Around 6.5 million people, or about 51% of its entire population, could face acute food insecurity and require urgent food assistance this year. The need to feed hungry children in Africa has never been more pressing.

Easily Save $90 and Give

Again, simply clearing out those crowded pantries and kitchen shelves and using the stockpiled items could save around $90 in one month. What to do with the savings? Why not simply cross those stockpiled items off of this week’s grocery list and donate the money? The pantry shelves will be less crammed — and that is a good feeling, along with the knowledge that using these stored items has helped to feed hungry children in Africa.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

U2’s Charity Work
Throughout its career, the band U2 has played for tens of thousands of people and gained millions of fans worldwide. The band’s influence, however, has gone beyond its music, as it has impacted millions of people with its charity work. Various members have done both individual charity work as well as work through the band. The band members’ collaborative efforts include poverty relief, disaster relief and health and human rights work. This article will highlight a few important instances of U2’s charity work.

Bono’s Work With ONE & RED

ONE is a campaign that Bono, U2’s lead singer and other activists co-founded. The campaign’s aim is to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. In order to achieve this goal, Bono has personally met with heads of state and lobbied governments to pass legislation. Grassroots efforts and ONE’s lobbying for legislation have saved millions of lives over the last 10 years through newly funded government policies. Bono also co-founded RED, an organization that raises awareness and funds to help fight the AIDS crisis. RED has raised $600 million to date, which primarily goes toward AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa.

Disaster Relief Concerts

Throughout U2’s existence, it has played numerous concerts and events to raise money for various disaster relief benefits. In 1984, Bono and U2 bassist Adam Clayton performed at Band Aid, and in 1985, U2 performed at Live Aid. Both events raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The next year, in 1986, the band participated in A Conspiracy of Hope tour on behalf of Amnesty International, an organization that focuses on protecting human rights around the world. That same year, it also performed for Self Aid, which helped the homeless in Ireland. On the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, U2 played the Live 8 concert in London. This concert supported the Make Poverty History campaign.

Other Assorted Charity Work

Beyond Bono’s work with ONE and RED and the band’s charity concerts, U2 has participated in other charitable work. For instance, Bono teamed up with Muhammad Ali in 2000 for Jubilee 2000, which called for the cancelation of third world debt. Bono also founded the organization DATA, which aims to improve the political, financial and social state of those living in Africa. Bono has visited Africa on numerous occasions in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for AIDS relief. Additionally, the band donated all of the proceeds from the release of its song “Sweetest Thing” to Chernobyl Children International, which works to give those the 1986 Cherynobl accident affected medical and economic help. Most recently, U2 donated €10 million for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers on the frontline fighting COVID-19.

U2 has impacted millions of people around the world, not just with its music, but with its charity as well. U2’s charity work has helped millions of people around the world. In particular, Bono’s work with ONE and RED has helped fight against poverty and the AIDS epidemic. The band has also worked together, using its music directly by playing a variety of concerts to raise money for important causes. Even as the world grapples with the devastating effects of COVID-19, U2 has continued providing people in need with generous humanitarian aid.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Africa Medical Supplies Platform
African countries have a new tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic: an online marketplace for medical supplies. The site makes COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment more accessible. On June 18, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), describing it as the “glue that is going to bind the continent together.” The World Health Organization reported that, by July, there had been more than 380,000 COVID-19 cases and 9,500 deaths in Africa. AMSP, a non-profit initiative, aims to help save lives while saving African countries billions of dollars.

Fighting COVID-19 by Connecting the Continent

The African Union, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Export-Import Bank and ECA, along with other organizations, collaborated to create Africa Medical Supplies Platform. The online marketplace works much like eBay and Amazon, enabling African Union Member States to access COVID-19 medical supplies efficiently. N95 masks, hand sanitizer, ventilators, surgical gloves, face shields, surgical masks, thermometers, oxygen concentrators, isolation gowns and diagnostic test kits are all available for purchase. The website also prioritizes products that are made in Africa. If healthcare providers want to obtain PPE or medical equipment, AMSP will connect them to reliable suppliers as well.

AMSP suppliers are reputable, and the procurement of medical supplies will be transparent and equitable. AMSP also allows African countries to better contain COVID-19 without competing with stronger health systems around the world. Additionally, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airways have committed to ensuring that supplies will be delivered expediently.

On July 17, African Union special envoy Strive Masiyiwa announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will support efforts to provide dexamethasone to Africa. The drug functions to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients in the United States and Europe. In Africa, dexamethasone will aid in the treatment of roughly one million people. Furthermore, the MasterCard Foundation has provided the African CDC with $15 million to purchase PCR tests through the platform. After African Union Member States register on the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, they will be able to access these medical supplies.

AMSP’s Potential Impact on Mass Testing

The ability to obtain and utilize a large number of COVID-19 test kits is a key component of containing COVID-19. Increased testing allows countries to better understand which precautions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, many African countries lack sufficient resources to administer mass testing. Commercial tests can be expensive and therefore difficult to distribute widely in lower-income countries.

According to Masiyiwa, about 0.17% of people in Africa had been tested for COVID-19 as of June. This rate is notable, especially in comparison to 3.16% in the United Kingdom and 4.41% in the United States. Mass testing can protect health workers and provides information about the groups most vulnerable to the virus. It can also help show whether lockdown measures and social distancing are effective. Masiyiwa attributes the African continent’s low testing rates to global shortages of test kits. AMSP was created in part to address this issue.

Lockdowns, another aspect of COVID-19 containment, are also harming African countries economically. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) estimates that the continent loses about $65 billion every month as a result of stay-at-home measures. Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the ECA, has stated that Africa Medical Supplies Platform “could save [Africa] $40 billion” because it allows for increased testing, which could reduce the need for strict lockdown rules. Less strict lockdown rules would also allow some people to go back to work and earn an income.

AMSP Helps Contain COVID-19 and Works Against Poverty

According to a recent AMSP press release, demand for medical equipment has been high since the Africa Medical Supplies Platform was launched in June. “Member States of the African Union, leading international non-governmental organizations as well as international and African foundations” have all used AMSP. This platform is helping African countries contain COVID-19 and boost their economies. It will also supply the COVID-19 vaccine, once available.

The World Bank estimates that the coronavirus pandemic will push 71 million people into extreme poverty, and people in India and Sub-Saharan Africa will be most affected. By helping combat the spread of COVID-19 and allowing health systems to function at lower costs, AMSP can also reduce the pandemic’s negative impact on individuals and prevent people across Africa from falling into extreme poverty.

Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

fighting covid-19 with innovationSince the first diagnosis of COVID-19, the virus has spread to more than 200 countries. The unanticipated challenges of the pandemic take a significant toll on people, especially those in countries where the accessibility of essential resources and healthcare are limited. Despite this fact, nations around the world have demonstrated their resilience and critical thinking during this calamitous time. COVID-19 has revealed negligence in economic and healthcare systems all over the world, but it has also inspired innovation in science and technology. It is clear that humanity looks to overcome these difficulties and build the world into a better place. Here are four countries that are fighting COVID-19 with innovation.

4 Countries Fighting COVID-19 with Innovation

  1. Iran is developing a low-cost, easy-to-build ventilator. It is being developed at the University of Tehran’s School of Electrical & Computer Engineering. The ventilator is for patients with severe respiratory distress. Hospitals around the world have been experiencing a shortage of ventilators due to their elaborate structure and high production cost, which inhibits quick, large-scale manufacturing of the machines. The lead scientist of this endeavor, Hadi Moradi, has made this an open-source ventilator. He plans to share his team’s design with other scientists so that they can modify and build ventilators for their own communities.
  2. In Uganda, Grace Nakibaala created the PedalTap. It is an affordable, foot-operated water dispensing device that reduces the spread of infectious diseases. In Uganda, people have a 60% chance of contracting an infectious disease if they wash their hands in a public sink because the handles can be unsanitary. Nakibaala’s device works hands-free so that people can avoid contact with viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19. It is also water-efficient, retrofittable and durable, making it a sustainable technology among those fighting COVID-19 with innovation.
  3. Australia has recently launched a contact-tracing app called COVIDSafe. The app uses Bluetooth technology to find other devices with the app installed. It measures how far users are from each other and how much time they spend together. COVIDSafe keeps users’ contact information for three weeks before deleting it, to account for the two-week incubation period of the virus. Users diagnosed with the virus may upload their close contact information. This allows health officials to look up others who are diagnosed, find the COVIDSafe users they have come into contact with and instruct them on what to do.
  4. In China, patients at a Beijing hospital are receiving mesenchymal stem cell injections. These injections are helpful for regenerating lung tissue, allowing patients to fend off COVID-19. So far, researchers reported the results of seven patients treated with stem cells. Each patient suffered from COVID-19 symptoms, and each received a single infusion of mesenchymal stem cells. A few days later, researchers said that symptoms disappeared in all seven patients and that there were no reported side effects. Currently, 120 patients are receiving stem cell treatment, and while more clinical testing is necessary to validate these trials, the results look promising.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on healthcare and political systems worldwide. However, these four nations have demonstrated that they can productively conquer the challenges that the virus brings. Along with these four, other nations worldwide are responding to these unprecedented issues in novel and innovative ways, fighting COVID-19 with innovation and redefining healthcare for generations to come.

Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BelarusLocated between Poland and Russia, Belarus was part of the Soviet Union before becoming known as the “last dictatorship of Europe.” After the fall of the USSR, Belarus began a long transition, switching its economic structure from a command economy to a more strict market economy. Alexander Lukashenko became the first president in 1994, and he is still in office today. In 2020, Belarus scored poorly on the World Press Freedom Index, ranking 153 out of 180 other countries. Despite the need to improve some of its sectors, poverty and hunger in Belarus are not significant issues.

The State of Hunger in Belarus

Belarus has a global hunger index rating of five. Countries with rates of less than nine have a low risk of hunger problems. Since Belarus’s government subsidizes agriculture, the production of food remains steady, constituting 6.4% of its GDP. Along with low hunger in Belarus, the unemployment rate went from 1% in 2016 to 0.3% in 2019. Poverty likewise remains low, at a 5% rate. As such, Belarus is progressing in development. The United Nations rated the country to have “very high development,” putting it in 50th place out of 189 nations.

Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues worldwide, officials expect unemployment rates to rise to 2.3% in Belarus. The pandemic may cause more residents to lack the means to obtain food. So far, the government has not implemented any measures to help people with job loss during the pandemic. Cases began rising in mid-April, and the World Health Organization worries that the government is not doing enough. If not handled properly, the unemployment rates may continue to rise into 2021. Belarus’s government, while not having a strict plan for job loss, has supplied food to residents by issuing a decree to offer free assistance. Government officials have also not yet spoken about any plans to offer monetary assistance to residents that must leave work because of the pandemic.

Future of Hunger in Belarus

Despite the pandemic, Belarus can expect a continued low hunger rate. Though the country is succeeding in improving living conditions, it still is not completely free of poverty. The Belstat statistical committee estimated that one in five Belarusians live in poverty. However, looking into 2021, others predict that unemployment will lower again to 1.8%.

Belarus has significantly less inequality than other EU countries, so there is less of a gap concerning household income between the wealthiest 10% and the poorest 10% of residents. The country has had its difficulties from moving to a command economy to a semi-market economy, but it has also made significant progress. Since Belarus is one of the countries that first created the United Nations, it has been able to advance more of its goals, such as improving the economy and promoting foreign trade. Throughout the years, the country has received aid from various organizations that have helped its rapid development from 2012 to 2016. Belarus may have some problems in dealing with poverty, but it has prospered due to aid from the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund and several programs from the United Nations. This has all helped to reduce the level of hunger that citizens of Belarus face.

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisisOf all households in Venezuela, 35% depend on financial support from family members working overseas. According to local economic researcher Asdrúbal Oliveros, remittances to Venezuela will suffer a heavy blow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe effect on the global economy. With an estimated $2 billion decrease in remittances, the health of millions of Venezuelans is in serious danger due to the combined effects of COVID-19 and the Venezuelan Crisis.

The World Bank believes the pandemic will cause a 20% decrease in global remittances, the biggest drop in recent years. With 90% of citizens in Venezuela living in poverty, the drastic fall in remittances and oil prices spell trouble for countless people. Furthermore, the unprepared Venezuelan healthcare system has struggled to control the pandemic.

Despite numerous U.N. groups imploring for money-transfer businesses to make international transfers cheaper, Venezuela’s foreign exchange policy and volatile economic system are difficult to reform. “Venezuelan remitters” are instead left using unnecessarily complex methods to send money back home.

The Venezuelan Government Under Nicolás Maduro

In 2019, the Venezuelan government politicized humanitarian aid when it vilified the U.S. government’s foreign aid as the beginning stage of a U.S. invasion. However, the government has finally acknowledged the long-denied humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro has accepted the deliverance of aid after negotiations with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Subsequently, the United Nations declared it was increasing its efforts to aid Venezuela.

Despite the progress made, politics continue to negatively affect potential aid. According to Miguel Pizarro, a U.N. Representative, the political influence leaves many without fundamental necessities. Pizarro explains, “If you demonstrate and raise your voice and go to the streets, you do not have food, medicine, water or domestic gas.” Pizarro continues, “Eighty percent of Venezuelan households are supplied with gas by the state. If you become active in the political arena, they take away that right.”

Sharp declines in oil value, numerous embargoes globally and negligent economic policy largely caused the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. Since 2014, the nation’s GDP has fallen by 88%, with overall inflation rates in the millions. A 2019 paper published by economic researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research attributed medicine, food and general supply deficits in 2018 to the deaths of at least 40,000. According to findings from the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Life, a scarcity in medicine puts over 300,000 Venezuelans in peril.

Dr. Julio Castro, director of Doctors for Health in Venezuela, says “People don’t have money to live. I think it’s probably a worst-case scenario for people in Venezuela.” Despite recent increases in aid and medicine from U.N. operations and the IFRC, the Venezuelan struggle persists.

Venezuelan Healthcare Amid COVID-19

Most of the Venezuelan population can only afford to receive aid from public hospitals. These public hospitals often experience persistent deficits in necessary supplies. A study conducted by Doctors for Health indicated that 60% of public facilities frequently face power outages and water shortages.

In response to this, the Venezuelan government authorized $20 million in healthcare aid, which will be administered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a territorial agency of the World Health Organization. They will use the capital to develop COVID-19 testing and to obtain personal protective equipment (Ex: masks, gloves, etc).

According to Luis Francisco Cabezas of local healthcare nonprofit Convite, a recent study identified a worrisome struggle. Data indicated that roughly six in 10 people had reported trouble obtaining medication for chronic illnesses. The problem has only worsened since the pandemic.

Local Nonprofits Redirect Efforts Toward Venezuelan Crisis

Numerous nonprofits in the country have responded to COVID-19 and the ongoing Venezuelan crisis by shifting their efforts. A director for Caritas, a Catholic charity, says the ongoing economic disaster compelled his organization to prioritize humanitarian work over its original mission of civil rights advocacy.

Similarly, Robert Patiño leads a nonprofit civil rights group, Mi Convive, which shifted to humanitarian work in 2016. Since its inception, the organization has directed its efforts to child nutrition. Through the group Alimenta La Solidaridad, Mi Convive has opened over 50 community kitchens in Venezuela, feeding over 4,000 kids weekly.

Although the efforts by Venezuelan nonprofits have aided thousands, it is not enough. COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisis need to be in worldwide focus until the government can reliably provide for its citizens. The work of numerous good samaritans can only reach so many people, and their work is constantly hindered by “Chavistas,” a group of Venezuelans who are loyal to President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Mi Convive’s Robert Patiño claims the radicals have been known to go as far as withholding food boxes from areas where the nonprofit is trying to begin new programs. The humanitarian emergency in Venezuela must be appropriately addressed, for the livelihood of millions of people are at stake.

Carlos Williams
Photo: Flickr